Senior Chris Pence takes up teaching


Theodora Vojnovic

Senior Chris Pence demonstrates a concept in computer science.

Sophia Kakarala and Alex Dacus

When senior Chris Pence signed up for the Principles of Computer Science class last spring, he didn’t expect to spend first semester teaching it.

But when the class’s regular teacher, Rupali Satija, took an extended health leave, students felt that the class was beginning to stagnate. With no one actively teaching the material, Technology teacher Christina Mehl substituted for the class and asked Pence to step in, making his role as an unofficial tutor more official.

“I didn’t know where they’d left off, and he seemed to know more than I did,” said Mehl, who was impressed by the ease with which Pence understood the material.

The class used the syllabus of a UC Berkeley computer science course. Pence said he had read through the curriculum to prepare, and followed it closely.

In the classroom, Pence would stand at the whiteboard in his characteristic blue jacket, scribbling an example as students looked on. Students agreed that the usually quiet Pence assumed a collected, professional attitude when teaching.


“Chris was really helpful,” said senior Ali Burney, a fellow student. “He did a lot without even having his credentials.”


Pence had no formal teaching experience, though he tutors calculus students after school. Friends like senior Jenny Yang said that he often helps explain math and science lessons to his classmates.

Senior Chris Pence helps another student in Computer Science, which he has been teaching.
Theodora Vojnovic
Senior Chris Pence helps another student in Computer Science, which he has been teaching.


Pence has tried to teach himself several languages, including French, Swedish, and Chinese, and has constructed some of his own. He drew a parallel between linguistics and computer science, noting that in programming, manmade languages are applied to a practical purpose.


“In terms of grammar and syntax, whenever you learn a new language, you learn something new,” said Pence. Those lessons, he said, can be used to improve technology.


Pence, who met with Mehl and Satija to plan the class’s first semester final, said that he hopes to be a teacher someday, and that the experience teaching Principles of Computer Science has been a motivating one. The class seemed to agree.


Chris has since stopped teaching, as Satija has returned.

“Chris is an inspiration,” said junior Anthony Comoda, who hopes to be a web developer in the future. Satija agreed, calling Pence “a good role model for other kids.”